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Your Teenagers Brain – Behind the Wheel

Taken from presentation by Wilkie Wilson, Ph.D. 
From DukeLearn  at Lifesavers 2011

The human brain is not fully developed until the early 20’s  This presents both opportunities and risks. Many teen behaviors result from their unique brain characteristics. The late-developing prefrontal cortex is the coordinating center of the brain. It permits a person to organize complex tasks, plan in advance for actions, interpret complex cues, inhibit inappropriate behavior and execute rapid decision making.  These are all actions that are very necessary to driving a vehicle.  The emotional regions of the brain develop before the executive centers and thus teens are more prone to emotion-based responses.

Adults are “gestalt” thinking because they have experience.. they can make quick decisions.  Teen have to think through issues because they lack experience.. their decisions take longer.  The teen brain responds to alcohol differently. Teens are less sedated by alcohol than adults. But they probably get a greater “buzz” from it. Thus they can stay awake at higher levels of alcohol and engage in risky behavior.

So what do we do as parents?
*  teach teens that their brains are different in a variety of ways
*  teach teens to be aware of how these differences may affect driving
*  help them avoid situations in which their deficiencies may be problematic
*  teach them that the brain is like a muscle and it improves with training and practice
*  encourage teens to avoid driving in risky situations (such as with friends in the car) until they have extensive experience
*  encourage teens to engage in a lifestyle that promotes maximal brain function    such as   1)adequate sleep (9 hrs. a night)

2) proper food ( foods that keep blood gloucose at healthy levels( such as protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates

3) avoid excess stress, because the brain functions poor;y under chronic stress
Remember car crashes are the major cause of death in 15 – 25 year olds It takes a well functioning brain to make all the quick decisions needed to drive. That is why all teens need to focus 100% on driving. Leave the socializing to after they reach their destination.

Go to this website for more information on the teen brain
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2008/11/26/how-to-deploy-the-amazing-power-of-the-teen-brain